When you are trying to decide where you should go for medical treatment when your doctor’s office is closed, you have several options. The decision to go to an emergency room vs. an urgent care express center should be based on the severity of the illness or injury.
Many people think that their only option for medical treatment on the weekend or at night is a hospital emergency room. In the United States, there are more than 5,000 hospital emergency rooms. They are open seven days a week and 24 hours a day. You can see a doctor every day of the year when you go there. The good news is that urgent care centers are also open most days and have expanded hours.
In 2012, there were about 136 million emergency room visits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Experts at the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey have estimated that anywhere from a third to half of these visits were for illnesses and conditions that could have been treated at urgent care express clinics. Moreover, it has been estimated that at least 56% of the visits to the emergency room could have been avoided, according to the New England Health Institute. The main reasons people head to an emergency room are muscle strains and sprains, upper respiratory infections and small cuts. All of these problems can be treated by urgent care express clinics
There are times when the only real option. One way to look at this decision is to think about the severity of the illness or injury. If there is any reason to believe that you will be admitted to the hospital because of your condition, you should go to the emergency room. This is one reason that it is so important to have a primary care doctor. They know you and your medical history and can advise you about what kind of care you should look for when you become ill or injured and their office is closed. Here are some conditions and injuries that need treatment in an emergency room setting:
- Head injuries.
- Seizures in people who do not have epilepsy.
- Gastroenterological bleeding.
- Anything that results in unconsciousness.
- High fevers in babies or toddlers.
- Severe chest pain.
- Severe stomach pain.
- Gun shot or stabbing wounds.
There are a host of conditions that can be treated in urgent care express centers. These are injuries and illnesses that cannot wait for a doctor’s office to open but are not true medical emergencies. These are not life threatening conditions. Some of the conditions that can be treated at urgent care centers are:
Muscle strains and sprains and small fractures. At least 80% of all urgent care express centers can treat fractures and all have x-ray technology.
Vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. Approximately 70% of all urgent care centers offer intravenous (IV) hydration when it is really needed.
- Ear infections and upper respiratory infections.
- Bites from animals and insects.
- Small cuts.
- Urinary tract infections.
- Minor to moderate back problems.
Going to a urgent care express center is a lot less stressful and expensive than going to an emergency room. The medical care you receive in an emergency room is the most expensive health care around. This is not the case with urgent care centers. As a consequence, many health insurance carriers promote going to to urgent care centers rather than emergency rooms for treatment of conditions that need care right away. The copayments they require for these services are much less than for getting treatment at an emergency room.
When you are in an emergency room, your wait for treatment can be very long. This is because they have to see people based on the severity of their problem. This makes a lot of sense but can still keep you there for a long time. When people go to urgent care express locations, they are typically seen by a medical professional within about 15 minutes of their arrival. The average amount of time people spend in urgent care clinics is under an hour.
The experience at an urgent care center is a lot more relaxed than the emergency room. There are no ambulances coming and going and you will get first rate treatment.